Ethics Hero: Artist Shepard Fairey

Wait a minute…doesn’t Ava look a bit like Tojo?

I’m so tempted to post this story as a late response to my virtue-signaling Facebook friend who fatuously argued that political correctness was just about “not being an asshole.” this is, of course, another example of partisans using denial to avoid facing inconvenient facts.

Because some delicate flowers complained that the mural above, by artist Beau Stanton, offended them and made them feel unsafe because the rays emanating from the head—of actress Ava Gardner, for God’s sake— reminded them of the Japanese imperial battle flag, the L.A. school district agreed to paint over it. The mural is located at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown, which is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Koreans have not forgiven Japan for its atrocities during World War II, which is understandable. Projecting that on a mural portraying Ava Garder is not.

The school district’s senior regional administrator, Roberto Martinez, compared the Stanton mural to Confederate statues and argues that the value of the art doesn’t outweigh the “offense” to people. Pssst…Facebook friend! He’s the asshole! He’s also too dumb and biased to be a trustworthy educator!

Now artist Shepard Fairey, who painted THIS mural… Continue reading

Armistice Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/18: Pettiness, Tit-For-Tat, And Fake All-Stars

Good Morning!

Why Nora Bayes? Let me tell you a story…

I learned about Nora Bayes (1880-1928) while mounting a production of a “lost” musical, George S. Kauffman’s Hollywood satire “Hollywood Pinafore,” which was essentially a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Nora was mentioned in a laugh line in the script, so the 1941 show assumed that the audience knew who she was. I had never heard of her, so I did some research. She was a fascinating character, and a huge vaudeville and Broadway singing and comedy star, household name huge. “Over There” was one of her biggest hits; another was “Shine on Harvest Moon,” which she wrote with her second husband (she ultimately had five), Jack Norwith. He also wrote “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” another Bayes standard. According to one online biography, Bayes Bayes “provided some flamboyant, indeed extreme, examples of the broad social changes happening in the United States in the early twentieth century, namely the questioning of traditional roles for women as well as the challenges to male political and economic power that marked the women’s movement of the time.”

I almost wrote about her in April. As regular readers here know, I believe it is the our duty to honor the memories, accomplishments and cultural influence of past figures in American history, because the more we remember, the more we learn, and the wiser and more ethical we are. Somehow Nora Bayes, famous as she one was, had been in an unmarked grave for 90 years.  On April 21, a group of Nora Bayes enthusiasts placed a granite headstone over her plot. The New York Times told the strange tale here.

Now I think of Nora Bayes every time I hear “Over There,” “Shine on Harvest Moon,” and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Maybe you will too.

1. Truth in labeling. Major League Baseball has sent a team to Japan to play a series of exhibition games against a Japanese All-Star team, reviving a long-time tradition that had been suspended for several years. As you may know, the U.S. was critical in introducing baseball to Japan, and sent several major stars there to help get the sport established. Playing in Japan is mostly a lark for the American players, but the games are taken very seriously by the Japanese. In the first two games, the MLB All-Stars have lost, greatly pleasing the locals.

I don’t begrudge the Japanese fans their David and Goliath fantasies, but calling the U.S. team “All-Stars” is misrepresentation. For example, one of the pitchers who got clobbered in the last game, a 9-6  contest that began with the Japanese team jumping out to a 9-0 lead, was a Red Sox pitcher named Brian Johnson. I like Johnson, a crafty swing-man who had some good moments last season, but he’s a lifetime 6-6 pitcher who was left off the Red Sox post-season roster, and will have to battle to stay in the majors next season. I know you can’t sell tickets if the U.S. team is called the “All the players we could talk into coming to Japan Team,” but that’s what it is.

2. Tit for Tat  may be funny, but it’s not ethical. Representative Dan Crenshaw, the veteran who was mocked last week on Saturday Night Live for his disfiguring war wound, appeared on the show last night to mock the appearance of his tormenter, Pete Davidson. Crenshaw was unusually poised for a pol on a comedy show, and the bit successfully got Davidson and SNL, which had been widely criticized for its nasty routine, off the hook. Clever. Successful. Funny. Still wrong, however. This represents an endorsement of Donald Trump ethics, as well as the endlessly repeated rationalization for the non-stop ad hominem attacks the President has inflicted on him daily by the news media and others. The President famously—infamously around here—has always said that if you attack him, he’ll attack you back harder. His haters argue, in turn, that their tactics are justified by his. This is how the culture got in the escalating spiral to Hell it is in. I don’t blame Crenshaw: if he hadn’t accepted the invitation to get funny revenge on Davidson, he would have looks like a petty jerk. Nonetheless, he has now officially become part of the problem, not just a victim of it.

3. Stop making me defend President Trump Dept.  You see, I am kicked around on Facebook for not just falling meekly into line and declaring that everything Donald Trump does is an outrage and proof that he should be impeached. I tell you, it’s tempting. The mass bullying campaign to herd everyone into the undemocratic effort to overthrow an elected President using relentless criticism and flagrant double standards has been effective in stifling others, and it also serves as a kind of mass cultural hypnosis. I don’t like defending Trump. He is doing serious damage to his office, as are his unhinged foes, who are apparently willing to destroy the nation, democracy, and the Constitution to “save” it from him. But I will not be intimidated out of pointing out the revolting pettiness, hypocrisy and unfairness of his critics. Two examples surfaced yesterday. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/18: Comfort Women…”

Sam Halverson’s 6th comment to Ethics Alarms is a Comment of the Day, and a fascinating one. It comes in response to Item #2 in the 1/14/18 Warm-up, which involved the seemingly endless argument between South Korea and Japan over the Korean women forced be sex slaves by their Japanese captors during World War II. One of the pleasure of operating this blog is that its readers teach me so much. This is a prime example.

Here is the Comment of the Day by Sam Halverson on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/18: Comfort Women, Presidential Health Lies, Pit Bulls And No “Goodbye Columbus”…Yet

Let start this comment by saying; this is not what it looks like.

My dog (a mutt, maybe a little bull terrier, who knows?) is not in this fight between Japan and the Republic of Korea. To categorize it as a fight probably isn’t correct either as the facts have been settled and there has obviously been a huge evil committed by Japan against the people of Korea, one I am not writing this to convince anyone of anything but rather to inform people of something they may not of known before hand. Whataboutism this is not, anger, disgust and a bit of shame it is.

Everyone loves a hypocrite; watching someone fall always delight the side of us that craves spectacle and someone who betrays themselves only raises the precipice higher. Which is why I want to talk about the massive human trafficking problem that goes on in The Republic of Korea.

The Korean people are polite. They do not talk about scandalous things in public, not with strangers and definitely not with foreigners. They would rather ignore a problem in their polite society than admit it exists. Getting an average South Korean to self criticize the culture is like pulling teeth and just as likely to end in blood loss.

For example, it is a blatantly open secret that while prostitution is illegal (as well as pornography) in Korea, it is rampant. There are literal whorehouses that display their wares in the open on the street behind pink curtains and glass walls, police walk by without comment. These are known as “glass houses” and the implied metaphor for the country is apt.

While the Korean government is chastising the Japanese for refusing to apologize for atrocities committed over half a century ago, they are practicing the very same evils today.

Every year an unknown number of women are forced into prostitution and domestic servitude on a country that is rated as a TIER I nation on the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, TIER I being reserved that nation’s that comply with international laws on human trafficking.

I wonder if South Korea is afforded leniency because of it’s strategic position in advancing US interests in the region, a reclassification would bring sanctions and weaken US Korean relations. I can personally tell you that that status is crap, unlike the US where human trafficking is hidden behind closed doors there it is as mentioned visible from the street.

How do I know? I was stationed at Camp Hovey, South Korea for a period of one year while serving in the army as an 11B. It’s a smaller camp connected to Camp Casey which is one of the largest and furthest north of the primary American installations. I was stationed there in 2010 and witnessed this with my own eyes. Comfort women still exist, but they are being sold willingly by the Korean public to friends not Invaders. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/18: Comfort Women, Presidential Health Lies, Pit Bulls And No “Goodbye Columbus”…Yet

Good morning!

1 Attack of the Dog Bigots. The 2015 Ethics Alarms post designating an anti-pit bull breed website “Unethical Website of the Month” was once again targeted by dog breed bigots and has been getting the same, mindless comments from hysterics that it has been recieving since the post went up.  I don’t allow comment threads to be polluted by propaganda, so I have posted an update requiring any comments to be substantive and to make a genuine effort to address the inconvenient facts I have laid out here over time, facts that the dog bigots routinely deny or ignore, and facts that virtually all experts in the dog field have confirmed.

I recommend  scanning the comment thread, however, for a reason unrelated to dogs. The commenters in the mold of the one who recently wrote this—“But tomorrow, and every day after, when ANOTHER pit bull mauls ANOTHER person, the nutters will take a break from their busy schedule of rampant drug use and domestic violence to jump onto the comments section of the news article to defend these useless pieces of canine garbage.”—are perfect examples of 1) the reasoning of racists and 2) individuals who no longer process information that challenges their belief system, so they simply ignore it all, deny it all, and just keep mouthing their ignorant manifestos.

They are indistinguishable in this regard from the indignant women who have now for three months running come up to me during a break in a legal ethics seminar, recited their feminist cant  talking points objecting to my accurate explanation of legal ethics priorities when the clash with political correctness, and then turned their back on me and walked away when I attempted to address their points.

2. A Japanese Ethics Train Wreck. The Japanese army forced captured Korean women, many thousands of them, to be their sex slaves, or “comfort women.” This is documented fact, and it also launched an ethics train wreck of unusually long duration.  The long-held official position of the post war Japanese government that South Korea’s complaints about these war crimes were either exaggerated or imaginary—the equivalent would be if the German government denied the Holocaust, which it has not—has undermined relations between those countries to this day. There is no end in sight, as this report explains.

What a mess. Japan’s current Prime Minister,  Shinzo Abe, was once a Comfort Women Denier. In  2015, the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, signed an agreement with Abe  as a “final and irreversible” settlement of the controversy, including an official Japanese government apology and an $8.8 million fund to help provide care for the now elderly ex-“comfort women.” The damages were judged inadequate by critics, and Park was later impeached. Now the current South Korean president wants the deal to be renegotiated. Abe, however, rejected  the “additional measures” sought by Seoul, saying that, in essence, a deal’s a deal. He’s on strong ethical ground there, except that the 8 million was ridiculously low,  and Japan’s acceptance of its responsibility for the sex slave outrage has always been grudging at best.  Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Logan Paul

I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Logan Paul until this morning. He’s a unique creation of the cyber-age, a 22-year-old college drop-out whose occupation is “social media entertainer.” He makes daily videos–“vlogs”—that he posts on his YouTube channel. It has 15 million followers, along with his hundreds of thousands of others across social media, and is regarded as major cultural force, for what, I have no clue. He is, of course, rich.

In pursuit of more followers and cash, he posted a video, since  removed from YouTube available elsewhere online, that features a dead young man, lying in a Japanese forest known as the “Suicide Forest,” which lies at the base of Mount Fuji. Paul began by telling his YouTube fans,

“This definitely marks a moment in YouTube history Because I’m pretty sure that this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever. Now with that said, buckle up!”

With that titillating intro, Paul described the reputation of the Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji. It is a popular site for distraught Japanese to end their lives, and is thus known as “the Suicide Forest.”  Locals also say the forest is haunted, another exiting feature that Paul and his companions hyped as they walked along. Then they come across the dead body. The video blurred his face. “Yo, are you alive?” Paul shouted at the dead man. As a camera zoomed in, Paul described the body’s condition, and speculated that the death was recent.

After making the obligatory observation that depression and mental illness are not a joke, Paul’s group left the scene and he began joking, with the mugging and giggling his fans are accustomed to seeing on his vlogs. At the end of the video he encountered a young fan and told him, smirking and pointing the way, “I have one piece of advice. Don’t go over there!”

And yes, he was wearing that hat (above) the whole time.

 The video was posted over the weekend, and did not receive the desired response. Many expressed horror that a young man’s body would be used a a prop, and that Paul would be cavalier about mental illness, depression and suicide. Now the Cyber Furies are after him, and threatening to turn him from web star into a web pariah. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: World War II Veteran Marvin Strombo

Many Japanese soldiers during World War II went into battle carrying small “Rising sun” flags, the red sphere on the field of white, with the white field decorated by hundreds of classmates, family members and friends. The flags were for good luck, and to link soldiers to their loved ones while they fought for the Emperor.  I had never heard of this practice until today; my father served in the European theater, so he would not have known that many American soldiers took these personal talismans from the bodies of fallen Japanese soldiers as war trophies.

U.S. Marine Marvin Strombo was such a soldier. A member of  an elite sniper platoon during the bloody battle for the Pacific island of Saipan in 1944, he had taken a flag from a dead Japanese soldier lying on his left side—he remembered that the young man looked like he was  asleep—after he noticed something white sticking out from his jacket.

The flag with all the inscriptions on it hung behind glass in Strombo’s gun cabinet in his home in Montana for decades until 2012, when the son of his former commanding officer contacted him for assistance with a book he was writing about the exploits of his father’s platoon. (ARGHHH! I just remembered that I haven’t gotten back to a member of my Dad’s unit who wrote me a couple of months ago!) Working with the author,  Strombo learned about  the Obon Society, a nonprofit organization in Oregon that works to locate and return the personal Japanese flags to the families of the fallen soldiers who carried them. Researchers determined that the dead soldier Marvin’s flag had belonged to was named Yasue Sadao. What Strumbo thought was calligraphy were really the signatures of 180 friends and neighbors, including 42 relatives, who saw Yasue off to war from Higashi Shirakawa, a small village of about 2,400 people in the mountains roughly 200 miles west of Tokyo. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/2/17 [UPDATED]

1. I wonder when and if the LGTBQ community will ever grow up. I had an annoying exchange yesterday when a Facebook friend began whining that President Trump hadn’t done or said anything to honor Gay Pride Day, proving again that he was the spawn of Satan. A friend of that friend then added, to the usual flood of “likes”—all you hve to do is insult the President to get likes— that for him to honor Gay Pride Day would be like Hitler observing ceremonies for Holocaust victims. Of course, nobody had the integrity or the decency to point out what an idiotic comment that was, so I did. When will people stop making me defend Donald Trump? He is the first and only President to enter office fully accepting same sex marriage (unlike Obama and Clinton) and the unending slur that he is hostile to gays is the product of two factors: fearmongering (He was going to put gays in camps!) and bigotry (If he’s a Republican, he must hate gays.) One response to my rejoinder was someone posting this NBC story as a “rebuttal.” The sum total of the anti-gay actions of the Trump administration, according to this alleged indictment? Here’s the description:

“For many LGBTQ Americans, the early days of Trump’s Republican administration have been fear-inducing. A series of Cabinet appointments have been roundly criticized by LGBTQ advocacy groups. An early draft of a reported executive order legalizing broad discrimination against LGBTQ people threw the community into a panic. The dismantling of Obama-era protections through executive orders came with the simple stroke of a pen.”

This is modern day fake-news journalism at its most obvious. All  the paragraph says is… Continue reading